AUGUSTA — The local Elks Lodge was expecting to receive about 150 families when it opened its doors Saturday morning to hand out backpacks, notebooks, pencils and other school supplies, but around double that number showed up for the giveaway. Within 45 minutes, some types of supplies had already been swept up.

“The turnout has been unbelievable,” said Mike Michaud, exalted ruler of the Augusta Elks Lodge. “We knew there was a need for this in the community. We didn’t realize how much of a need, and what the families need to get kids back to school. … We’re already running out of stuff.”

Families who came to the giveaway formed a line outside the main entrance to the Elks Lodge, stretching all the way to a baseball field at the back end of the property, and several said they were grateful for the outreach.

Tyler Dumas, 14, of Augusta will soon enter the eighth grade at Cony Middle School and said the supplies would help in all his classes – especially his favorite subject, science.

“I take a lot of notes,” Dumas said. “This is very helpful if you need school supplies and you don’t have enough money to go out and get them.”

The giveaway was the first of what the Augusta Elks Lodge hopes will become an annual event. The event was partly funded by a $1,500 grant from the national Elks organization. A number of local groups also donated supplies and funds.

Given the large turnout on Saturday morning, “Next year, we’re going to make sure it’s a lot bigger,” said Michaud, whose wife, Lina, was chairwoman of the event. “We were planning for 100 to 150 (families to come). We blew that right out of the water.”

He estimated that 300 or 400 families had come on Saturday.

Prior to the event, Michaud said the goal of the giveaway was to equip children from needy families for success in the school year ahead, though all families were welcome.

“These are basic items kids need to have for school,” Michaud said. “But, believe it or not, a lot of kids in these communities start school with nothing but the shirt on their backs. Close to 50 percent of kids going to schools in the city of Augusta are at or under the poverty level. So there is a definite need for these things, to give these kids a fighting chance.”

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

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